LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - I remember putting the rubber “thingy” on my pointer finger as I fought to keep my eyes open, desperate for sleep, but trying my hardest to win Mom Of The Year.
As most parents know, raising a newborn is a survival of the fittest mission. It’s all about keeping them alive. Eat, sleep, rinse and repeat. Amid the madness came the small things that sometimes took a back seat, like brushing their teeth, or my own, for that matter. To this day, I still don’t know what that “rubber thingy” is called, and I have three kids. I just remember using it every day to brush their teeth. The second I saw a new tooth pop, I got to scrubbing.
Over time, I realized how important oral hygiene is from the very start. Not when they hit that miracle milestone and their first tooth starts to glimmer, but taking care of their gums, and consequently their teeth, before the monumental moment hits. I have one daughter in braces now, one about to get them, and a son who fights me tooth and nail to brush his teeth. It’s an enlightening experience to say the least, but learning how to properly take care of your child’s teeth is crucial. It needs to fall in the “survival of the fittest” category, and not something that takes a back seat.
Let’s separate fact from fiction when it comes to your child’s oral hygiene.
FIRST DENTAL VISIT
First things first, when should your child see a dentist for the first time? This is one of the 20 questions asked by DentaVox. The company surveyed 715 people to find out how much they truly know about health care. Seventy-six percent said children should visit the dentist for the first time between the ages of three and four. According to health experts, your child should see a dentist for the first time as soon as their first tooth comes in, which in most cases is between six and 12 months. Think first tooth, first dentist appointment.
One of the main reasons for this is so dentists can catch what’s called early childhood caries, before it progresses. This was previously known as “Baby bottle tooth decay” or “Nursing caries.” This can develop at an early age, and to make matters worse, cavity-causing bacteria can be transferred from mothers to babies, so the earlier your child sees a dentist, the higher the chance is that they’ll be able to prevent any future problems.
WHEN TO LET YOUR KID DO THE BRUSHING
As your child grows up, “toddler teeth tantrums” erupt. Some dentists recommend brushing your child’s teeth until they are perfectly coordinated, around the age of six. However, NHS’ advice is to brush or supervise brushing until your child turns three, then switch to supervision only. As with all things parenting, this will differ from child to child depending on their developmental skills. Dentists say the goal is to help your child form healthy brushing habits at an early age, which includes taking care of their baby teeth.
IT IS SAFE FOR BABY TEETH TO ROT?
That brings us to our next fact-or-fiction trivia. Does it matter if your child’s baby teeth decay, since they’ll fall out anyway? What do you think?
Twenty-three percent of parents surveyed believe tooth decay in baby teeth isn’t cause for concern. However, ignoring it can cause serious problems. If left untreated, a decaying tooth can become abscessed, even within a baby tooth. This could result in emergency surgery, and likely severe pain for your child. Simply pulling out a decayed tooth can cause other teeth to shift, which could lead to spacing problems when your child’s adult teeth grow in. It’s also important to keep baby teeth clean and healthy because your child needs their teeth for proper speech development and nutrition.
FLOSSING ISN’T JUST FOR ADULTS
If you ask any dentist, flossing is just as crucial as brushing your child’s teeth, despite parents’ confusion regarding the issue. Parents should start flossing daily, once your child’s teeth fit closely together, which usually happens between the ages of two and six. As they develop dexterity, you can teach them to floss on their own. As with brushing, make sure to supervise them until they’ve perfected this important health habit.
ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSHES: YES OR NO?
Let’s bust another myth. Have you ever heard that electric toothbrushes aren’t good for children? I know I did when my girls were younger, but that thought process has changed. Experts say that if your child brushes for two minutes, twice a day, and cleans every tooth, it doesn’t matter if their brush is manual or electric. In fact, electric tooth brushes may help those aforementioned “toddler teeth tantrums." The bright colors, timer, and fun themes, like a super hero, or princess, may be just what the dentist ordered to get the job done.
BRUSHING AFTER EATING
Seems like a no brainer, right? Well, it all boils down to timing. Forty-six percent of people surveyed don’t see anything wrong with their children brushing their teeth after eating, but experts say to wait. In this Myths & Facts article, brushing your teeth right after eating isn’t a good idea, and this goes for kids and adults. The acids in foods and drinks you consume soften your enamel for a while, so it’s important to wait 30 minutes before brushing. Brushing away the cavity-causing bacteria after you eat is important, but allowing it to settle, before settling in, is more important.
TIME TO TRASH THE PACIFIER
Parent-shaming is a real thing; it doesn’t discriminate, and it’s relentless. Giving your child a pacifier, and for how long, always seems to pop up in the Mom blogs I read. Again, it goes back to survival of the fittest. Sometimes your child needs a pacifier, and sometimes you need your child to use a pacifier to just get through the day. For healthy dental hygiene, there are rules to follow though. Several health experts say to ditch the pacifier by the age of 2 and talk to your pediatrician if your child still wants it when they’re three. If your child uses a pacifier for too long it can change the structure of their mouth and the alignment of their teeth.
To read more about important ways to keep your kids teeth healthy, click here: